There I was, standing in the middle of a frozen lake, right off to the side of a huge circuit that was carved into the ice, shivering in my boots. I could barely see a thing, no matter how wide I opened my eyes. It was all white. I couldn’t even make out the footprints I was leaving behind. The snow was falling like crazy, and it was coming down in clumps. It was getting in my eyes. Then it occurred to me: damn, this must be what it’s like on the planet Hoth. Just then, my nerd moment was interrupted by a screaming inline six; popping, crackling, bouncing off the rev limiter. It was Fredric Aasbø, in his 86-X, and he was absolutely murdering the boundaries of the temporary race track. I looked through my snow-encrusted viewfinder, barely making out the shape of a car and fired away. It was amazing that I got any usable pictures at all.
But let me pick up where I left off in my last post with just a few hours of sleep. The Gatebil crew was loaded up and ready to go. It was 6am, and snowing hard. At this point I still had no idea if Fredric and the boys had got the car together in time to make the event. I figured he would call me if the car was ready, so I just waited.
We met up with the crew at a petrol station to grab a quick bite to eat and fuel up for the long haul to Solevatnet Lake.
There was five vehicles all towing a trailer. Some with personal track cars and some with equipment necessary to run the event. These guys are professionals and they’ve been running events for about 20 years now.
The drive to the frozen lake was treacherous. There were many instances where we were blinded by the snow. You just have to trust that there’s road in front of you and not a cliff.
By the time we got to Solevatnet Lake, there were already many volunteers helping out with the set-up. It was around 7:30 am but it was still nearly pitch black.
Off in the distance I could see snow plows working hard to carve out the track. It looked like they were fighting a losing battle, because it was snowing incredibly hard.
Little by little, cars and fans rolled in as it slowly got brighter. But there was still no sign of the 86-X.
They were expecting a good crowd that day, because last year almost 1300 people came to watch the action on the ice.
It’s always interesting to see how the track cars are trailered to the events in Europe. The scandinavians can be quite creative at times. A Volvo towing a Volvo is nothing new in Norway, but I’ve never seen such a thing.
It’s so awesome to see these boxy behemoths pitch it completely sideways going into a corner. There were some crazy Volvo builds on the ice that day.
There were also some milder ones. While this Volvo looks super Mad Max-esque from the outside, it was actually mostly stock on the inside. That’s ok though, because you don’t need much power to have fun on the ice.
Fredric mentioned to me that sometimes it takes thirty minutes just for the guys running E85 to start their cars, because they have to warm the motors in order for them to start. These guys were burning off the fuel and heating up the spark plugs in order to start their Subaru.
Not your normal mechanic clothes, but then Gatebil On Ice is not your normal track day.Echo base
There were so many cool cars that came out to play – like this Mazda 1200. It’s interesting, because in July at Gatebil Rudskogen, horsepower figures often reach quadruple digits with some of the crazier builds.
Whereas with Gatebil On Ice, it’s perfectly fine to bring more stock cars because it’s all about having fun on the ice.
The motor on this Mazda was mostly stock, but it looked like the guys driving it were having so much fun. I was jealous for sure.
This event happens only once a year, so the proud new owner of this Audi TT just purchased it in time for some ice drifting.
What a way to break in a car huh? He had studded tires and everything; he was ready to go #MaximumAttack.
There were quite a few very nice-looking Audis, including this drool-worthy S2. I wish these cars were available in North America. It’s just a great looking little coupe.
Soon it was 9am and the track opened up to a line of eagerly waiting drivers. Gatebil On Ice had begun, but where was Fredric?
For the July event, spectators come from all over the world, but they’re no match for these hardcore fans.
I don’t know how they could possibly stay warm. I was struggling to keep feeling in my digits, and I was running around like a madman trying to keep warm. To stay in one spot all day like that? Just crazy.
It’s so rare to see these ‘pig nose’ 240SX front ends any more. In North America it seems all the ones that existed have been crashed or converted to a 180SX or Silvia front end. Seeing such an example made me miss the many S-chassis cars that I’ve owned.
Out of the blue, Fredric showed up; the car ready to go and everything. He was just a bit sleep-deprived. But that’s never stopped him before.
As they unloaded the 86-X, I took some time to look at it up close. Kind of how I did when I first laid eyes on it.
I felt so privileged to be the first one to shoot such an important car. It was a game-changer. Now it’s picked up a few battle scars, but that’s not entirely a bad thing.
For the day’s outing, it has been outfitted with studded tires. The guys usually go in search for cast-offs from local rally teams, because they only use them a few times before tossing them.
There was something beautiful about the 86-X lightly peppered with snow. Little TRA-Kyoto piggy had an ice blanket.
I think a car like the 86-X evolves its look over time. I like the slightly weathered bodykit. It’s a drift car after all and it has character now. There’s no hard parking here.
Luckily for Fredric, his family has always been understanding of his dream of becoming a professional drifter, and naturally his lovely fiancé is just as supportive. She attends as many events as she possibly can.Snow speeders
All eyes were on Fredric in the 2JZ-powered Toyota as he pulled out onto the frozen lake.
It took just one lap for him to loosen his rear bumper. Who needs that thing anyway?
Bits of ice shot into the air as he passed by. Instead of tire smoke, there were ice trails – it seemed so weird.
I’ve not seen Fredrik Sørlie since his Back to the Touge video was released. So I made sure to congratulate him for a job well done. You can check it out here if you’ve not already seen it.
There were two courses on the lake that day: one for studded tires and one for normal winter tires. Fredrik was practicing his backwards entries on the normal winter tire course; after all, he did drive his Cressida to the lake.
It seems that without trying, he’s started a bit of an old school Cressida movement in Scandinavia.
Now those cars are popping up all over the place. Of course, each one is unique in its own way. Fredrick would admit that his is far from perfect, but I think it looks great regardless.
I love seeing cars that we’ve featured already out at the track, because I like to see them being used. This E30 BMW puts down over 1000hp.
Speedhunters guest author and dear friend, Egil Håskjold, was on site to give me tips about the ice. Rule number one? Do not fall through the ice. I tried my best to remember that.
A few of my other friends were out on the ice as well, including my camera car driver from last year’s Rudskogen event, Sivert Naas. But instead of a BMW M3, this time he brought out his R33 Skyline. He was driving the chase car when we both witnessed the best drift in history.
Some of my other friends wore funny hats, and some of the people I didn’t know also wore funny hats. It must be a Norwegian thing.
By midday it was fairly packed. I couldn’t believe how many people came out to brave the cold just for a glimpse of drifting action. You could barely see from the parking and paddock area.
To fix that, many of the die-hard fans hiked all the way around and set up camp and a few bonfires across from the paddock for a better view of the back corners of the studded tire course.
By now, the area where the cars enter and exit the course had become a little worn down and more sketchy than I’d like. Water was seeping through and some cars were getting stuck.
The ice was thinner than normal, but not due to the temperature. Since it’s been snowing for almost two weeks straight, it coated the top of the lake and that acted as insulation. Therefore the track could not be as wide as previous years for fear of risking the integrity of the surface ice.
In fact, earlier in the week an Evo had fallen through the ice where it would normally be completely frozen. On top of that, a tractor fell through and got stuck just a few days before the event.
The conditions weren’t ideal, but I think everyone still made the most of it.
As always, Kenneth Alm put on a spectacular show with his crazy backwards entry AWD drifting, but because the course was not as wide, it was much harder to enter as fast in order to hold the drift through the entire corner. He still managed to link it a few times though.
Normally they would hold a power slide competition like at every Gatebil event, but the snow was just a bit much, and they didn’t want to risk over fifty cars just sitting on the ice in a queue. There was a high chance that could crack the ice.
As always, the taxi was running non-stop throughout the entire event and for just a couple of bucks, you could have the ride of your life.
It was fun to watch because they would almost always get stuck in the snow if they went too wide, but if they kept it pinned, most of the time they would pull out of it.
There were a fair share of really weird cars out on the ice, including this 1940s Pontiac Special Deluxe Business Coupe hot rod.
I would never have imagined that I would see something like that out on the frozen lake, but it actually looked completely at home, pitching it sideways almost every corner.
It’s still hard for me to get my head around the fact that people actually drift wagons out in Scandinavia. How badass is this Mercedes just going full tilt into that snow bank? I just love it.
This Ford Sierra station wagon was doing lap after lap like a boss. Again, I don’t get why we never got these awesome cars in North America. It seems like it would be the perfect road trip car.
I’m all about experimental drift cars, but this old school Chevy truck took it to a whole new level. I’d normally find these trucks all rusted out and taking up two parking spaces in Los Angeles, but I never would have imagined I would see one ice drifting.Tow cables
The Gatebil announcer decided that I needed to get a ride out on the ice, so he found a nice gentleman in a classic Porsche 928 who was willing to lug me around for a few laps.
After I strapped in, the driver (General Veers?) looked at me and asked if I was ready. After watching from the outside for the entire day I was ready to experience what it was like to drift on ice.
It’s interesting because along the course there were safety vehicles and stuck cars all over the place. They became moving obstacles, like they were part of the circuit.
The ride was super comfortable, and it was such an interesting sensation compared to drifting with normal tires in the dry. There was so much grip! Over the course of the day, more and more grooves were dug into the ice, which made the surface super rough and unpredictable. I could tell I would lose my lunch if I went around for just a few more laps, so I played it safe and went back to spectating.
What I realized about drifting on the frozen lake is that there’s a cushion of sorts. If you go too wide and smash into the snow bank it puts you right back on course.
However if you smash into it with too much force, it sucks you right in and you have to wait for a tow.
It’s gotta suck just sitting there waiting for someone to come help. Of course you can begin the processes of digging yourself out, but that really won’t help much.
That was the beauty of it: it’s just snow and it’s not packed in at all. The fresh powder absorbs the impact without an issue.
It looked like so much fun and I’d love to try my hand at it next year. Although I’m sure I’ll need to be extracted quite often, since most of these drivers get to drive on some sort of snow or ice every winter.
Even Hans Andersson from Gatebil joined in on the snow plowing fun. After all, these guys put on the event for the drivers and the fans. At the end of the day, they’re lucky to break even – which is ok for them, since they just want to give back to the enthusiast community in Norway.
This BMW was stuck and as it was being dragged out of the hole, water was gushing up through the ice. All the traffic had put quite a bit of wear and tear on the ice. So remembering rule number one (don’t fall through the ice), I was very careful where I was stepping.
Of course I’m sure you guys can guess what happened next. I stepped into an area which I thought would support my weight – seeing as there were cars parked on the ice just a few meters away – and I fell through. Both of my legs fell through all the way up to my pockets. It’s funny because my first thought was not ‘Oh no, I fell through the ice’, it was ‘Oh no, my cell phone is in my pocket.’
Lucky for me, I was wearing quite a bit of clothing, so I was too fat to go any deeper; I also had all my camera gear with me, which I held onto, and I just pulled myself out as fast as I could. My cell phone was alright, thanks to me jumping out quickly. After a quick trip to the restroom to change I was back in action.
On a side note, I will never complain about the porta-johns at Formula Drift ever again.
When Aasbø went back out, he was driving like a madman. He hit every single snow bank from corner to corner. It was so cool to watch.
You can check a short video of the exact same moment as the above photo but on video. Skip to 44 seconds if you don’t want to hear me talking with frozen lips.
The next lap around he found a tandem buddy, but the thing about ice particles is, you can’t actually see through them. With tire smoke you can still kind of make out where the track goes.
On top of the fact that the track is completely white, Fredric could have sworn the track went right, but he went left, straight into the snow bank at full speed. He may have had a few snowflakes lodged in his engine bay.
I’ve never seen anything like it. I guess that is what happens when you hit a mountain of snow at full speed.
They thawed it out as much as they could, but Fredric was done for the day. It was just not worth going back out anyway as the light was fading quickly.
By the time the last few cars were coming off track to pack up, the area in between the shore and the frozen lake was a mess.
In an effort to try and save the cars from going through the ice, the staff brought wooden particle boards out as a support. It mostly worked, but there was almost nothing left to hold up the boards. I wanted to get in closer for some more detailed shots, but I reminded myself of rule number one again.
You know sometimes when you get that sinking feeling? I know this guy had that feeling.
The best thing to do at this point was just to wait and take a smoke break. With all those boards under the car, it wasn’t going anywhere.
Eventually someone came to pull the car out. I was just amazed at how calm everyone was. Then again, I bet they didn’t break rule number one.
Back in the paddock, Fredric and the gang were getting ready to leave. Pushing a car uphill on snow is not such an easy task. There was very little traction.
I wanted to take a closer look at the damage after a day of hard thrashing on the frozen lake. Missing bumper? Check.
Replaced side mirror with a block of ice? Check.
And to top it off there were even still some spikes left in the tires. After a while they actually heat up and melt their way out of the tire.
Overall, I think it was a very successful day for the Norwegian Hammer. He came and pleased the spectators, as many fans came just to watch him drive. It was too bad that there was no powerslide competition, but overall it was still a fun event.
This final picture pretty much sums it all up for me. Scandinavian-built car, driven by some Norwegian drifting prodigy, stuck in the sinking ice. I have yet to attend a motorsport gathering anything like Gatebil On Ice. It’s in a completely separate category than all the rest of the Gatebil events. Any regular person can join and drift on a frozen lake for crying out loud. How can you possibly beat that? I encourage you guys to make the trip someday – you wont regret it. Just make sure you remember rule number one.